Biophilic moodboards: the benefits of "risky" interiors

in Biophilic Moodboards

Biophilic design is not only about how interiors look.
With their ambitious objective of improving wellbeing while connecting people with nature, biophilic interiors also aim at recreating the positive feelings of a natural environment.

It is no surprise that nature is filled with risky situations and environments, but can we call it a positive feeling? And even so, how does this fit in interior design?
Well, actually risk design features are among the most Instagrammable of all and sit on top of our Pinterest boards.
The question is: why is it so?
This is what inspired the Biophilic Moodboard of this month. So let’s dive into the fascinating relationship between risk and interior design.

Moodboard showing the concept of risk in biophilic design. 1 A floating staircase 2 A seemingly unstable stone on top of a cantilevered pillar 3 A bed with glass legs.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credits (from top left): DMD (opened in a new window/tab), Spasm Design (opened in a new window/tab) - Photo by Photographix, Lago (opened in a new window/tab).

Risk in biophilic design

In order to fully support our wellbeing, interiors need to be either relaxing or stimulating according to the situation.
If a bathroom or a cozy corner call for a soothing ambiance, a stimulating environment will be much more appropriate when creativity is required (like in office design) or to create a compelling interior.
This is exactly where risk features come into play and why biophilic design uses them (among the rest) to make an atmosphere intriguing and inspiring.
But not just any type of risk will work…

How does risk benefit our wellbeing?

Risk is a broad concept and what is in scope in biophilic design is the balanced combination of perceived risk with the rational knowledge of safety. In practice, it refers to situations that feel risky while being practically safe.
Such feelings of apparent risk have been connected with dopamine release in our brain *. And a short dose of dopamine can stimulate motivation, memory and problem solving, all precious assets when trying to be creative!

On top of this, risk design features are among the most spectacular ones. They leave us surprised and amazed and totally achieve what we would normally call the wow factor!

A terraced infinity pool that seems to go right into the forest.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanging Gardens of Bali (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Risk in interior design

How to introduce risk in interiors?
There exist several ways of doing that. Essentially, it all boils down to playing with shapes, materials and perspectives to create the perception of risk while actually keeping everything safe and sound.

One of my favourite examples is infinity pools. Despite being practically safe, they make me slightly shiver every time I see one! On the same note, pools with a glass bottom are also very effective in conveying a sense of potential risk.

A terraced infinity pool that seems to go right into the forest with a woman on the edge.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Hanging Gardens of Bali (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)
Pool with a glass bottom located over a seating area.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Wiel Arets Architects (opened in a new window/tab)

In fact, clear glass is generally a friend when creating a risk feature; it makes things visually disappear creating that sense of perceived risk while being structurally sound. Examples go from a more common glass staircase banister to "riskier" glass floors and glass furniture legs.
Full-height windows are also a favourite feature in a biophilic design. Besides creating a sense of risk (especially when located on higher floors), they “break the box” and connect the interior with the outdoor space in a seamless way.

A corridor with clear glass flooring.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Leicht USA (via Houzz) (opened in a new window/tab)
A bed with clear glass legs.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Lago (opened in a new window/tab)
Dining table with clear glass legs and solid wood top.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Lago (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Suspended features are also great to add an element of risk in interiors as they give the sensation of instability.

Hammock flooring.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Austin Maynard Architects (opened in a new window/tab)
A floating staircase with a thin and risky-looking thread working as railing.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: DMD (opened in a new window/tab)

Other seemingly unstable examples are cantilevered features like floating mezzanines, staircases or even entire rooms!

Home with cantilevered dining room.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Splyce Design (via Houzz) (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Ivan Hunter.
Exterior cantilever pillar feature supporting a huge rock that seems teetering.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Spasm Design (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Photographix.
A floating staircase with no railing.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Sawamura Masahiko (via Instagram) (opened in a new window/tab)

Playing safe with risk

Risk features are clearly not suitable for all situations nor for everybody. But there is one instance of risk that is less extreme yet equally impressive: the risk of getting wet.
A good example of it would be a floating pathway across a water pond.

A floating pathway across a water pond.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Iván Andrés Quizhp (via ArchDaily) (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Sebastián Crespo.

Or also, would you say that falling right into the water from a hammock is enough of a risk? Well, the answer is going to be highly personal. But for sure I would not complain if I had a similar feature in my home!

Hammock hanging over a pool.<span class="sr-only"> (opened in a new window/tab)</span>
Credit: Enrique Cabrera (via Archilovers) (opened in a new window/tab). Photo by Tamara Uribe.

Look through the previous episodes of Biophilic Moodboards as well! We've talked about how to use natural textures, why it's a good idea to include water features in interiors and much more!

* Sources

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